Class 3 Assignment & Discussion


Your assignment for Class 3 is to work with this idea of flow, flowing toward your child (or children) and flowing away, then back again as your kids let you know they’re ready for direct interaction again.  Share your successes and challenges!


To help us keep everyone straight, give us your updates by pressing “reply” to your original sharing.  Comment on each other’s posts!  This is the space to share ideas and ask for help.


  1. Hey folks, I just ran across this interesting article describing a research study done with 2,000 families. Guess what they found?

    “Mothers who allowed children more freedom [in their play] at age 2 were viewed more positively by their children later in childhood, according to the University of Missouri study.”

    See the article here:

  2. Yuanyuan Shen says

    I haven’t had much success on the assignment, but will try for the rest of the week. Currently the pattern is like this: I’m working in the kitchen or cleaning the dinning area; the children start to fight for toys, so I have to jump in and interfere; as soon as I solve their problem, I have to quickly go back to whatever I was doing.

    I smiled when I saw “perpendicular play” in your article. Two and a half? To me it started when the twins were still babies. Maybe it’s a twin thing? Austin always wants whatever in Lydia’s hands, even when I give them two identical items! He acts like the toys all belong to him: it’s natural to take them back. He becomes so frustrated when I stop him. Here is what happens in our home everyday: Lydia picks up something, in a minute Austin takes it away from her; Lydia becomes frustrated, and it catches Justin’s attention; then Justin takes it away from Austin, who becomes frustrated, too. Sometimes, Justin gives it back to Lydia, but most of the time, he wants to play with it. What makes me really annoyed and puzzled is Justin’s behavior. A lot of times I see he turns to something else after a few minutes. So he is not really interested in the toy he takes from Austin, but why he does it? Can you help me understand his behavior?

    Justin has regular tantrums, and anger over little things. It’s ideal to prevent his anger in the first place. But when it happens, I hope there is a way to release his anger. The only way I find effective is when he is about to throw a tantrum, my husband asks him to do physical exercises which require a lot of strength, but I’m not sure if it’s good. You mentioned in the call that hitting their own leg is an effective way for little children to release anger. I hesitate about it, too – will it teach children to hurt themselves when they get angry?

    I have a couple of questions about sleep. What to do when children wake up too early in the morning? Lydia used to wake around 6:30. Now she wakes around 6, which is still acceptable. But yesterday she woke up at 5:30. Leaving her crying for a few minutes would wake Austin. The only way to stop her crying is nursing, but I can’t put her back in her crib again. She seems waking up earlier and earlier in the morning.

    Another question is about the ritual for nap. For me it has to be short, since I need to settle three children one by one. I hum a song before I put the twins in their cribs. Lydia is OK with it. Austin needs something more; he often gets up in his crib. As for Justin, I mentioned in last week’s discussion that I read a book to him. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

    • Hi Yuanyuan, I know that I still owe you some answers to last week’s questions; I’ll copy them here and answer them shortly.

      One thing that I think would help you guys is for you to create some space for your kids until they gain more skills at playing/interacting with one another. So, whenever you want to start a household task, choose one child to “work” with you, and set the other two children up playing in separate areas. So maybe for washing dishes, Justin is your helper, while for preparing lunch, Lydia might be your helper. Then you’d start Justin playing with trains, and when he’s well into his play, you take Austin over to the play-kitchen and get him started playing there. Then you take Lydia into the kitchen with you and interact with her while you do meal-prep. If each child has different times/tasks that they’re your special helper, then each child gets the one-on-one connection that they need. Of course, you’ll just be getting started when Austin will wander over to Justin’s trains and want to take them. You can say, “Austin, I see you going over there. Justin is playing with the trains right now. What will YOU find to play with?” Then, “Nope, it’s Justin’s turn right now. You can play in the play-kitchen, or you can come in here with me and Lydia to help with lunch. Which will you do?” Then, “Oh, it looks like you need some help. Come on in here with us.” And you go and bring him into the kitchen, and give him a nibble of whatever you’re cooking. So in this case, Justin will be getting the independent play, while the twins both need more direct interaction with you. Another time, Justin may be helping you while Lydia plays by herself and Austin wanders around. Does this sound feasible as a goal? When you have multiple kids, you’ll be using weeks 1, 2, and 3 techniques all at the same time.

      In terms of taking toys away from the babies, I suspect that Justin does it to get attention (from you and from the babies) and he does it out of imitation (big kids imitate little ones just like little ones imitate bigger ones), and also out of habit. Next week we’ll finally be getting to sibling interactions and you’ll have more tools to help them create new habits. In terms of having tantrums, I’ve written some posts about that that I’ll give you the links to. I wouldn’t worry about him hurting himself by pounding on his thighs; it doesn’t hurt (try it yourself).

      Early waking is actually often a sign of needing MORE sleep, not less. You might try putting her to bed a half-hour earlier and see if that helps. I’ve had many parents be surprised that their kids sleep longer when they go to bed earlier.

      It is absolutely possible to put multiple kids down for naps at the same time; I put 3-6 kids down for nap every day for many years, and usually had two under age two. One thing that can help is to make sure that you do something with BIG energy about 30-40 minutes before nap, and then starting about 15 minutes before nap you really start winding down: pull the shades, start talking more and more quietly until you’re whispering, walking more and more slowly until you’re tiptoeing. You’re starting the process of helping the children relax their bodies and prepare for sleep. If you have one child who needs significantly more sleep than the others, you can put them down earlier, and then when everyone else goes down you all have to tiptoe and be SO QUIET.

      • Yuanyuan Shen says

        It’s a wonderful idea to have only one kid working with me each time. I was worried if all three children “helping” me in the kitchen, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything. I think I asked this question last week: what chores are suitable for children under two? I don’t want them cutting veggies… Maybe washing them, or sweeping with brush and dustpan…

        Please do give me the links to your posts about tantrums. Today when Justin was in anger, I asked him to pound on his thighs. But when he is angry, he doesn’t listen to me. He hit his head instead:( That’s what I was worried about. Pounding on the thighs probably doesn’t hurt, but he may develop a tendency to hurt himself.

        I put Lydia down a little earlier tonight. Hope she will sleep longer. I also need some help on her nap. It bothers me since she was a baby. Her nap is very short. Sometimes she can sleep nearly 2 hours, but most of the days she wakes around one hour. I can tell she obviously wants to sleep more, but I have to keep nursing her. If I try to move her even a little bit, she would immediately get up and probably cry. I’m afraid it has become a habit. Is weaning the only solution?

        I scheduled our lunch at 11:30. The reality is it’s often 10-15 minutes later. Austin often gets drowsy during lunch. If I take him down from high chair, he would happily play, showing no sign of drowsiness. If I put him in high chair again, he would again want to sleep. Does it mean the lunch time should be earlier?

        Rhythm is something I always wanted to introduce into our home life. We just started the weekly rhythm this month, when Justin started his summer break at home. I find much easier for me to have plans for breakfast and lunch for each day of the week. We also have morning activities for each day. Three days outdoor, one day to library, and one day at home crafting.

        On Tuesdays we go to arboretum. The children love the train garden there, and I like the flowers, trees and the lake. But I’m thinking whether to change it. The problem is it is 18 minutes away from our home, and the children need at least one hour play time, not including the walking time to the train garden. So all the children fall asleep on the way home in the car. Then we have late lunch and late nap, 45 minutes to one hour later than usual. Do you think I should change our Tuesday activities, and do something near our home instead?

        • Read my Extra Reading on “High Expectations” for what’s appropriate at different ages.

          OK, more later, I promise!

        • Here are my posts on tantrums:

          In terms of your daughter waking early from naps, I think that if you’re happy nursing her back to sleep, then go ahead and continue. But if it’s working for her but not for you, then it’s worth changing. When my daughter (age 17 months) wakes too early from her nap, I go in and rock her for a bit while she’s sitting up but leaning her head against me. Is that something your daughter might go for? Of course it’s hard for her to not get the breast if she’s used to it and they’re right there, so she might object until that’s not an option anymore.

          In terms of Austin falling asleep during lunch, I would definitely push lunch a bit earlier; maybe 15 minutes? But in terms of going to the Arboretum which you love, even though it throws your rhythm off, I’d say that it really depends on how much you love it. Kids can handle one day of off-rhythm, especially for something that brings everyone joy. But if they’re grumpy and fussy for the rest of the day, then maybe not. So weigh the pros and cons.

    • Yuanyuan Shen says

      I know next week’s topic is children’s interaction, but this is my biggest headache right now, so I’m writing this here in case you have comments. I start teaching Justin asking for help from me instead of being aggressive to his siblings. I can take them away from his play area if he needs to, but a lot of times he is angry because his siblings don’t want to play with him in the way he desires. I can’t force them if they don’t want to play this way. I offer to play with him myself, but he usually rejects when he is angry.

      His anger comes so quickly that I have to monitor their conversation all the time. As soon I sense some tension, I run to them and sometimes it’s already too late – Justin acts aggressively to his siblings and they start to cry.

      Even I have toddler twins, the biggest challenges come from Justin. What makes me really puzzled is he behaves very well when he is outside of home, no matter in a conventional day care center or a Waldorf school. He never takes toy from other children; he is never being aggressive to other children. Sometimes I see other children take toy from him, and he doesn’t even ask it back. Why he acts so differently at home with his siblings? Why he is such a good boy to his teachers but so difficult when he is with me? I don’t feel he is asking for attention or connection, or testing boundaries.

      • Yuanyuan, when children act like an angel with someone else but are consistently challenging with one person, that is almost always an issue of boundaries. You may feel like you have good boundaries and high expectations, but the fact that he behaves for others tells you that your boundaries are not firm enough. Do you really have FIRM expectations of kindness? You may scold or yell, but still accept the behavior.

        Whenever we increase our expectations and firm up our boundaries with a kiddo, then it’s really important that we also increase our affection in equal measure, so that the relationship still feels balanced. Does that make sense? If not, I can talk about it more on the call tomorrow.

    • Yuanyuan Shen says

      I’m probably the one who asks the most questions in the group. Parenting three little children is such a challenging job for me, and I feel I need help in many aspects. Here is another one. The twins are in transition from feeding to eating by themselves. I know week 6 is all about meals, but spending too much time on meals gives me challenge to keep daily rhythm. When they eat by themselves, they are slow and picky (Lydia only eats toppings on pizza and cheese on bagel). After sitting in high chairs for a while (maybe 20-40 minutes), they really want to get down, but they are not done. Almost as soon as I put them down, they ask for food. I’m not sure about being very strict to 21-month-olds: once you leave table, then no more food. When I feel they really need eating more, I feed them while they play. It may take up to one hour to finish one meal. I remember you wrote somewhere that children eat in waves. How to keep them in high chair eating all they need at a reasonable speed?

      • Don’t worry about asking too many questions–there’s no such thing! I just can’t respond every day, so you may get many ideas at once. I’m also available for one-on-one calls, which are half-price during the duration of the class.

        So, we’ll talk more about this in our week on mealtimes, but I’m a big fan of only eating while sitting at the table. If your kids know that you’ll hand-feed them when they get down and are playing, why would they bother feeding themselves? (Or for others of you, if your child knows that they can have goldfish crackers or some other favorite snack 20 minutes after they’re “don” with their meal, why would they ever choose to eat chicken and broccoli?) Likewise, if meals are never-ending, there’s also little motivation. It’s only if there is some sense of urgency, of use-it-or-lose-it, that eating at mealtimes feels worthwhile to many kids. I’ve had quite a few kids who would eat 80% of their meal in the last two minutes, when the food is about to go away (we’ll see one of those kids in the video footage in week 6). So, of course this is going to be a transition for you guys, and I’d suggest sitting down for meals much more frequently (say, every 90 minutes) while they’re getting used to the idea that they need to eat while it’s time to eat. Once they get the hang of that, though, then life will be much easier and less stressful for you! And you’ll be creating healthy habits around food for your kiddos.

  3. Angie Kochukudy says

    After struggling a lot with the first couple weeks, it’s kind of nice to be able to “coast” on this topic. Sarina is really good at independent play, and has been for a while. She will get totally engrossed in something, often for pretty long periods of time (like 30 minutes?). The more fine-motor skills she’s using, the better.

    So, I’ve been looking a bit at the ebb and flow – particularly in the evenings when she gets home. She wants attention at those times, but isn’t always ready to “do” with mommy – so we’ve been working on the living arts things from last week – she picked basil, washed it, and tore it up for dinner with me last night. Then she was more ready to go “do her own thing.” A lot of times, that is in the kitchen with me, underfoot, lots of mess on the floor, or now climbing up to the counters. I’m going to work on having more things she can do that are “like” mommy cooking, in addition to continuing to involve her in the tasks as much as possible. Don’t have a lot more thoughts on this one.

    Regarding the issue I brought up in the call, with her preference for Mommy when Daddy is disciplining her – am working on implementing these changes and will let you know how it goes when we have a few more days. Last night, I ended up going upstairs, but she fought Daddy for a good 10-15 minutes before settling down. Not sure what to suggest to him; he’s getting into power struggles with her, and no one is winning.

  4. Alissa Moghtaderi says

    I am here and thinking about my kids and their play a lot, but this is my first week at my new job and it has been such a busy time that I feel like I have had very few hours with Miles and Elliott to practice any new skills. So I’m here to check in and say that I will be working on this more this weekend than I am able to during the week!

    • Alissa, thanks for checking in anyhow. When life gets so busy it can be easy to “check out” and drop the class altogether, but checking in helps make sure that you can re-incorporate it as things begin to settle down again. Congrats on your successful move and starting your new job!

  5. Chappell Marmon says

    I’m in the same boat as Alissa. Kiva is in day care Mon-Wednesday, so I haven’t had a chance to observe much of her play. When she gets home I’ve been trying to anticipate and embrace her need to have lots of mommy time. I have made one observation about her play–she’ll often start on something herself, but then want mommy or daddy to come play with her. For example she’ll go the the kitchen and get her picnic basket and set out some food and then come get me and tell me to “sit.” Or she’ll set up a fort then come get me and tell me to “sleep.” I’m sure she does a lot more independent play at her daycare, but at home she definitely wants us as her play companions. Actually, she did play by herself a bit this morning “hiding” in our closet while we were getting dressed. She was definitely interacting with us a lot by popping out and surprising us, but she was not demanding very much of us in terms of playing with her.

    I have been having a lot of luck with the technique of saying what I think she “meant” to say when she is whining or yelling about something. I’ve also been working harder on pleases and thank yous and saying, “will you remember to say thank you?” and then if she doesn’t just saying, “not this time!” and moving on. I really like the idea of not forcing a child to say thank you.

    I am really looking forward to the unit on meal times as I feel we have established some bad habits in this area. Kiva is incredibly impatient when it comes to food so I often put food in front of her first and she winds up eating alone at the table while I am finishing preparing food for myself or cleaning up or whatever (although the table is right there so we can still talk, but I”m just not sitting down with her as much as I would like). By the time James and I are sitting down with our breakfast, she is almost done and wants to get up. I have a vision of having “family dinners” every night, but it just seems impossible to make it happen.

    • Chappell, a few thoughts. First, it’s fine to have times when you are a playmate to your child, but make sure that 1) it’s not never-ending, and 2) that you actually enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it the way it is now, then start to become a contributing participant. “I don’t want to sleep, I’m not tired. I think I’ll make some play-spaghetti for us to eat, instead.” Real social play is about the art of give-and-take, contributing ideas and incorporating others’ ideas as well. Sometimes when we let kids just boss us around when it comes to play, then it’s no fun for anyone and we’re not doing them any favors as well. If they object vociferously, then you might say, “You know what, I’m not having fun playing right now. If you’d like to play in a more friendly way then I’ll come back, but I think I’ll go and start getting dinner ready in the meantime. You can come help if you wish.”

      In terms of her feeling so impatient that she can’t wait for food, I experienced this firsthand my first year of teaching toddlers–they all brought packed lunches, and it literally took me 20 minutes to unpack them all. It seemed like no matter how fast I worked, at least one (and often more) would be in full-blown meltdown by the time they were actually eating. Finally, I discovered something revolutionary: what they were actually objecting to was my rushing. When I took THIRTY minutes to do it, but I’d show them what each container had in it, let them smell it and sometimes get nibbles, (when I had enough energy for my task AND for them), then suddenly they were able to wait patiently. If your daughter is REALLY that hungry every day, then perhaps she needs a quick, dense snack right when she gets up (cheese and/or banana can be a good one for this) so that she can make it till everyone’s sitting down together. What do you think?

  6. Suhjin Yoshioka says

    Hi Faith,

    As a LifeWays and Waldorf-inspired early childhood center, we definitely put emphasis on promoting independent play & rhythm in our days and I really loved your analogy of waves! It makes so much sense to look for this balance of high tides and smaller waves and that there’s a healthy flow to the day. I feel like I’ve been quite successful in creating a healthy rhythm for the children in my care in the morning with one hour of free play (during this time I also put out domestic or creative arts that children are free to engage in), circle time, wash hands, snack, bathroom & get ready for outside, one hour of outdoor play, transition inside & wash hands, lunch…THEN we put out our mats, use the bathroom, lay down in our mats for rest time and I tell them a story and sing a lullaby. I’d love some inspiration on how I can make rest time more successful..I am currently having difficulty with one particular child (2.5 years old boy) who resists it ALOT (he cries, gets out of his mat, etc)- even though he so needs it! (once he falls asleep, he’ll sleep for 2 hours!) I would love to use your Story that you mentioned on the call, if you wouldn’t mind sharing it with me! (and any other suggestions you might have would be great!)

    Thank you!

    • Suhjin, that sounds like you guys have a lovely rhythm to your days. I’d be happy to share my naptime story with you, I’ll just have to wait till I have a little more time. And I have some ideas for how you can help this little guy learn to relax his body so that he can drift off to sleep more easily.

      • Suhjin Yoshioka says

        Thanks so much Faith!
        Also, any thoughts on how to respond to a toddler’s aggressive behavior? The same boy I mentioned (2.5 years old) has been randomly and unpredictably violent towards other children in the class (pushing really hard, slapping, chocking..). I am going to meet with his parents on Tuesday to get a better idea of what he is like at home, his schedule/rhythm at home, if he has exposure to TV, and to talk about ways we can help him. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!!

      • Suhjin, let’s talk about this little boy tomorrow, if you’ll be on the call. Is he aggressive when he’s angry, or is it just that he doesn’t realize how is actions will affect others? I had one little boy who I kept expecting would grow out of his aggressive behavior, and he kept not doing it, and I finally did a home visit at his house and it turned out they were doing a complete remodel of their home, so he was trying to nap in a room surrounded with plastic, with jackhammers going in the kitchen. No wonder this little guy couldn’t hold it together! But if he’s just not realizing what will happen when he hits another kid, then you’ll get some good tools tomorrow.

        Since this little boy has more trouble than the others in relaxing enough to fall asleep, I think that it is fine to give him extra back-rubbing or foot-rubbing while the others drift off. One thing I’ve used with success is to very slowly and softly say goodnight to each body part, rubbing it slowly and firmly, with a heavy hand. Start at the bottom, saying goodnight feet, goodnight shins, goodnight knees, etc. etc. A heavy blanket can also help if it’s not too hot. I’ve also found that many kids use their hands to keep themselves awake: they’ll pick at the carpet, scratch their mats, pluck at their blankets, poke themselves in their own eyes, tug on their hair, etc. etc. With those children, I will help them put their hands to sleep, helping them rest under my own heavy hand. As soon as they can relax their hands , the rest of them follows behind.

  7. Alexis Schrader says

    Cate has always been great at independent play. Sometimes I struggle with not interrupting her, because I feel like I should be playing with her more. I also struggle with finding appropriate activities for myself while she plays. I’m a regular contributor to a couple blogs so my work involves using the computer. I know this makes me seem less available, but it’s tempting to get some work done while her focus is somewhere else.

    • Alexis, if she is a great independent player and doesn’t get pulled away from her play when you’re on the computer, then by all means go ahead and try it. One of the (potential) problems with doing computer work is that we’re not energetically “available,” so we ignore kids when they try to check in with us, and then we don’t even notice them until they’ve been whining for quite awhile and have completely left their play. But if you can “not mind” being pulled away as she needs you, and then go back after she’s checked in and is playing happily again, then doing computer work is just fine (and, how lovely for you!).

  8. Kerri Thauby says

    Hello. We are doing well with independent play. Oliver (3 yo) has really grown into playing independently over the past year. I am happy to now be aware of the ebb and flow of his play time and connection time. I have realized in this week that where I previously thought Oliver was just randomly being bad by throwing his toys or getting overly frustrated by simple things, he is actually asking for some time to connect. When I have seen this behavior this week, I offered to read a book or tell him a story and he is very happy to have that time to reconnect.

    Benjamin (1 yo) already feels like he is more independent with play than Oliver was at that age, but he also has big brother as a constant source of entertainment. But we are now running into problems as Benjamin is naturally drawn to whatever Oliver is doing. One of Oliver’s favorite activities is building train tracks on the floor, but we haven’t been able to do that for a while since Benjamin will always destroy the track and grab for the trains. So train track building has been reserved for times when Ben is napping, as I cannot serve as a good enough distraction to prevent the destruction. Any tips on this, or just simply something we can’t do right now?

    As a follow up to last week, I have had success with Benjamin in cleaning his hands and face after meal times by using your buzzing bee routine. But my best efforts to make diaper changing a more pleasant experience have still failed. Benji has hated diaper changing since day 1 – squirms and fusses and cries every single time, despite attempts to distract with toys, songs, tickles, etc. Any diapering tips up your sleeve?

    • Kerri, I wonder if there’s a baby-free spot that Oliver could lay out his train tracks? In the hallway behind a baby gate? In a bedroom? On the diningroom table? Otherwise it may have to rest for a couple of months. You will be helping Benjamin to be a more interactive partner in not wrecking Oliver’s games, but train tracks are a tough one because they are so all-over-the-place.

      I don’t have any failsafe diapering tricks, except to say, watch and see when things start to fall apart, and then really inject some connecting energy into that spot. Then hopefully the fall-apart time can move a little bit later (from going on the changing table to opening the diaper, for example), and then you put your extra energy into that next spot. Some squirmy kids also do better changing diapers while standing up (if they’re not poopy). My daughter went through a couple of months of major squirminess, and things shifted when I stopped just trying to manhandle her and I told her quite firmly, “I need you to lie on your back on the changing table.” Then I helped her do what I asked, compassionate that this was a disappointment. She cried once or twice and then gave it up. Here’s my post on diaper changes:

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